Boxes perched above Huntingdon’s Smithfield Riverside Park are a home for endangered bats

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HUNTINGDON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Little Brown Bat and their close cousin, the Indiana Bat, are tiny creatures that live in large numbers.

“They’re both about the size of my thumb,” explained Justin Vreeland, wildlife management supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The Indiana Bat population is an endangered species.

“The colony was struck with White Nose Syndrome which is a very aggressive disease called by a fungus,” said Vreeland.

In Huntingdon County, these bats have been living in crevices underneath the Fourth Street Bridge in Smithfield Riverside Park.

“It provides just the right size for those bats to shimmy up in there,” said Vreeland.

Steps away from the bridge is a box perched high above ground. It’s a safe and warm home to help build back the number of bats.

The first box was installed in 2006.

“It had two bats at that time and grew slowly to a couple of hundred individuals,” said Vreeland.

Plus, Vreeland reported thousands of bats living in the bridge, proving the effort is a success.

“This seems to be a highly preferred location,” said Vreeland. “In fact, right now this is one of the largest summer colonies for bats in Pennsylvania.”

Two more boxes will be installed in the park during the winter of 2022.

“We want to ensure it remains stable and has more room to grow if it needs to,” said Vreeland. “They’re really important parts of our local ecosystem and this part of Pennsylvania seems to be really good for them and they have an important role to play here.”

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